Hershey holds off Lebanon boys in finale, 65-62
HERSHEY - Almost always brought on by a poor shooting performance or bout of misfortune, basketball coaches will occasionally turn to this exact lament after a loss: "It just wasn't our night."
But even if the Lebanon boys basketball team shot well or made friends with Lady Luck in its regular-season finale, Thursday was simply never going to be a night that belonged to the Cedars.
Hershey seniors Dylan Painter and Matt Brier made sure of that.
In their final high school game, the Trojan duo combined for 41 points to give Hershey a memorable 65-62 win over Lebanon on its Senior Night. The Trojans (12-10) led for the entirety of the second half and cemented their season-ending high note through four Jake Wilson free throws with under 30 seconds left. Logan Blouch's dozen points led the Cedars, who had six players score at least seven.
Lebanon (15-7) now moves on to the Lancaster-Lebanon League tournament, which begins Saturday with a home tip-off against Lancaster Mennonite.
"We've got to forget about this. And hopefully it doesn't affect us too much for districts," Cedar coach Tim Speraw said. "We've got to come back Saturday and be ready to go and see what we can do."
Painter, a 6-foot-10 Villanova commit, did everything for the Trojans in an action-packed second quarter that started with a three-point Hershey lead evaporating thanks to an 8-2 Lebanon run. Ahead 16-13, the Cedars traded baskets with their hosts on nine consecutive combined possessions, a streak that ended at under three minutes left in the half via a Painter rejection. Working back offensively, the Trojan star then dribbled through trouble from mid-court to the corner and then the right block, where he scored through a foul.
The initially hairy possession seemed almost emblematic of Hershey's season, which opened well below .500 and finished strong with a mark of 8-2 over its last 10 games.
"I think it showed we're a playoff team," Painter said of Tuesday's win. "We had a tough start to our season, but now we finished 8-2. It's just unfortunate it didn't work out in the (district) rankings."
Guided by a Painter slam in transition, the Trojans soon sped into halftime with a 33-29 lead. Such a sight has been fairly common during the big man's career, which has played out as one of the greatest in school history.
"Dylan will go down as, if not the best, one of the best players to ever play at Hershey High School," Blackburn said.
Unable to locate the shooting touch that carried it to a 21-point outburst in the second quarter, Lebanon fell further behind in the third, while Brier went to work. The senior guard dropped 11 of his career-high 17 post-intermission, helping the Trojans ride into the fourth with a buzzer-beater and a 10-point advantage.
"Matt Brier was a big difference down the stretch," Blackburn said. "And we just made enough free throws, got enough stops and rebounds to stay ahead."
Even as the Cedars climbed back to within a single possession late via acrobatic Matty Lopez layups, they could never quite close the gap or find enough rhythm. And that was due to one man, according to their head coach.
"Dylan is just a presence inside. When we did get to the rim, he's changing shots or blocking shots," Speraw said. "We just didn't hit shots when we needed to and turned the ball over too much."
Perhaps a long way of saying it simply wasn't Lebanon's night.
Hershey 65, Lebanon 62
Danny Caricabeur 1 0-0 2, Justin Baker 3 0-2 8, Shaq Ortiz 4 1-1 9, Allan Escoto 3 1-2 7, Logan Blouch 4 0-0 12, Dante Vargas 3 0-0 7, Matty Lopez 4 0-1 9. Totals — 26 2-6 62.
Connor Gurt 1 0-0 2, Jake Wilson 2 4-4 9, Luke Blackburn 3 2-2 10, Matt Brier 8 1-1 17, Luke Hedrick 0 1-2 1, Harry Blackall 1 0-0 2, Dylan Painter 8 7-10 24. Totals — 23 15-19 65.
L_ 8_ 21_ 10_ 23_ — _ 62
H_ 11_ 22 _ 16_ 16 — _ 65
3-point goals — L 8 (Blouch 4, Baker 2, Vargas, Lopez) H 4 (Blackburn 2, Painter, Wilson)